Why Do People Migrate? Part 1: Facts
Why Do People Migrate? Part 1: Facts
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This article from The Economist puts the finger on the painful question of the "economic cost" of hosting refugees.
Read the article and comment on the European experiences in this respect in your journal.
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The economic impact of migrants and refugees: burden or benefit?


The economic cost of refugees is a debated issue across the European continent today. Together with security concerns, the economic impact of migration on European economies is the main reason that political movements as well as people having critical visions of the current refugee wave to Europe, put forward in support of their thesis.
"Refugees do cost a lot as they take out more than they bring in", "they take our jobs away", "they drag down wages" are the common comments expressing these positions. Yesterday elections in three regions of Germany have brought to attention that the far-right party AfD has gained double-digit scores after a campaign based on Euro-sceptical positions and against the government’s refugee policy and reached its highest consensus in a eastern Land (Sachsen-Anhalt), which suffers from one of Germany’s highest unemployment rates (8.8% against the German average of 5%, see http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/images/thumb/9/99/Unemployment_in_the_regions_of_the_European_Union_2.png/318px-Unemployment_in_the_regions_of_the_European_Union_2.png)

If this happens in the strongest, largest and most stable economy of the European continent, we can easily imagine that economic concerns related to the arrivals of refugees are even more intense in states whose economies are in worse conditions and still recovering (or attempting to do so) from the enduring economic crisis started in 2008. Greece, Italy and Spain, the EU countries of arrival from, respectively, the Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean routes, all face high rates of unemployment, particularly among young people (see http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Unemployment_statistics#Recent_developments_in_unemployment_at_a_European_and_Member_State_level ), have experienced cuts to the welfare state because of the austerity measures adopted to reduce public debts, and economic conditions have been deteriorating for many segments of their populations. In Italy, for instance, the fears of wage-dampening and competition for social services caused by the arrivals of refugees are a reality that can be noticed even without participating in the political debate: reading comments to migration-related posts in the most common social media is more than enough to have the picture clear, and these frustrations and preoccupations are well used by political campaigns based on the fears of the population.

Recent studies and research, like those cited in the article by the Economist, bring evidence that immigration has a reduced impact on employment and wages, and that if in the short time migrants get more in social benefits than they pay in to tax, with the passing of time their contributions may arise and this is particularly likely to happen with current refugees, as most of them are young and have a long working life ahead of them. Likewise, a report of the Italian Foundation “Leone Moressa” states that in 2014 taxes paid by migrant workers have contributed to bear the cost of over 600.000 pensions received by Italians, playing a role in the sustainability of the pension system in an ageing society (‘Rapporto annuale sull’economia dell’immigrazione’, 2015).

However it is also true that migrants are the weakest segments of the society, and because of this they can fall victims of work exploitation in the black market that evades tax payment.

It is up to the governments to introduce more effective controls to avoid these forms of exploitation from happening, as well as to speed up the examination of asylum claims, since only once the process has come to a positive end refugees are authorized to seek employment, and thus in the position of starting to pay taxes to their hosting country, and it is up the European governments and the EU institutions to adopt economic policies that can allow all the economies of the continent to start growing again, after years of austerity measures that seem to have led to a persisting stagnation in many states. Europe and the EU need new ideas, strategies, inputs, creativity and recipes to make its economy strong again, so as to offer employability to – and consequently receive taxes from – both nationals and migrants.

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